Chemical Physics Ph.D. Assessment Plan

Mission Statement

Chemical Physics lies at the interface of Chemistry and Physics. The emergence of the field recognizes that the fundamental chemical behavior of molecular substances is governed by the laws of physics, while the physics of atoms and molecules reaches into the domain of chemical properties.

The Chemical Physics Program intends to create an interdisciplinary community of scientists in which fundamental new knowledge is produced and applied to problems important to society today and in the future. Students in the Chemical Physics program are provided with the best possible opportunity to acquire the knowledge and training necessary to pursue their goals. This training includes rigorous classroom instruction at the advanced level along with the scholarly pursuit of new knowledge. The preparation and defense of a Ph.D. thesis and publication of research results in peer reviewed scientific journals are the most visible achievements of students in the program.

Ultimately, the program intends to prepare creative scientists with a solid theoretical background, advanced training in current research techniques, and the communication skills needed to convey the results and societal significance of their work. Graduates of the Chemical Physics Program should be prepared for careers as independent scientists in industry, national laboratories, and academia.

Student Learning Outcomes

1. Theoretical knowledge

  • (a) Students will possess a broad factual knowledge at the advanced level in all subfields of molecular physics and physical chemistry (including Quantum Mechanics, Statistical Mechanics, Mathematical Physics, Spectroscopy, and Chemical Reaction Dynamics).
  • (b) Students will possess a deep factual and theoretical understanding of their area of specialization, including an awareness of current modern research methods and technology, and problems of intense current interest.
  • (c) Students will possess familiarity with fundamental experimental or theoretical techniques that complement their advanced training in their immediate area of expertise.
Student Performance Indicators
  • Written comprehensive exam in Chemical Physics
  • Problem Sets, Exams, and Final Exams in graduate core courses in the five required areas (PHYS 701, 702, 721, 722, 730, 732; CHEM 752, 755, 757)
  • Student tracking/performance in graduate core courses
Assessment Method
  • Analysis of the examination level and student performance on exams. Evaluation by the examination committee.
  • Materials collected from each course are reviewed by an assessment committee represented by both subdisciplines (Chemistry and Physics) for level of difficulty, content depth and breadth, problem solving, and quantitative reasoning.
  • Analysis of how students perform (grades and scores) in each course relative to their performance on the qualifying exams.

2. Research methods, planning, and experiment design

  • (a) Students will independently design experiments to investigate a scientific hypothesis.
  • (b) Students will carry out experiments safely, using proper equipment and techniques.
  • (c) Students will independently conduct data analysis, along with evaluation of experimental or computational uncertainties and noise. Students can interpret results in the context of their uncertainties.
Student Performance Indicators
  • Experiment design
  • Laboratory safety
  • Analytical skills
Assessment Method
  • Annual evaluation by research mentor and discussion of evaluation with department faculty at end-of-year faculty meeting.
  • Annual evaluation by research mentor and discussion of evaluation with department faculty at end-of-year faculty meeting.
  • Annual evaluation by research mentor and discussion of evaluation with department faculty at end-of-year faculty meeting.

3. Literature research and communication skills

  • (a) Students will be able to present their work by effective written communication in form of scientific papers and reports, and by oral communication in the form of scientific seminars.
  • (b) Students will be able to train others in basic scientific knowledge and techniques and in advanced knowledge and techniques in their field of expertise.
  • (c) Students will be able to use scientific databases and the scientific literature to research a new topic. Students will have the ability to critically analyze and extract information from papers in the scientific literature.
Student Performance Indicators
  • Oral communication
  • Written communication
  • Teaching and training skills
Assessment Method
  • Student performance in group meetings and divisional colloquia evaluated by research mentor with discussion of evaluation by department faculty at end-of-year faculty meeting. Student performance in Seminar courses using evaluated using scoring rubric.
  • Dissertation, scientific papers, and reports evaluated annually by research mentor with discussion of evaluation by department faculty at end-of-year faculty meeting. Student performance evaluated in Seminar courses using scoring rubric for written abstracts.
  • Annual evaluation of teaching assistants by their students. Teaching and training skills in the research laboratory evaluated by research mentor with discussion of evaluation with department faculty at end-of-year faculty meeting.

4. Scientific creativity and independence

  • (a) Students will understand the societal and general scientific significance of their work.
  • (b) Students will possess the ability to identify key issues within their research area and independently propose new research directions and meaningful, testable hypotheses.
  • (c) Students will be able to draw from their general scientific training to synthesize new problem solving approaches.
Student Performance Indicators
  • Dissertation defense
  • Career employment and salary data
  • Oral Comprehensive Exam
  • Student self-direction and independence in research
  • Job performance
Assessment Method
  • Evaluation by examining committee.
  • Alumni survey, data compared with national ACS and APS salary surveys by employment type.
  • Evaluation by examining committee.
  • Annual evaluation by research mentor and discussion of evaluation with department faculty at end-of-year faculty meeting.
  • Alumni employer survey